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Boulevardia festival offers up plenty of good music in KC this weekend

Boulevardia in the West Bottoms

Thousands of Kansas Citians turned out last year for Boulevardia, a three-day festival of beer tastings, food, live music, carnival rides and hand-crafted goods.
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Thousands of Kansas Citians turned out last year for Boulevardia, a three-day festival of beer tastings, food, live music, carnival rides and hand-crafted goods.

The third annual Boulevardia continues the theme of its predecessors: It’s about beer, food, arts and crafts and music. Lots of music.

This year’s lineup comprises more than three dozen bands performing on three stages over three days. One of those stages is the more intimate acoustic stage, a component introduced at last year’s festival. The three-day festival under and around the 12th Street bridge in the West Bottoms is presented by Boulevard Brewing Co. It begins Friday.

The lineup on Sunday, which is Father’s Day, includes a hearty dad-rock lineup at the main stage: Three bands with heydays that go back at least 25 years, but these groups still deliver an invigorating live show.

Here’s a look at the main stage headliners plus a short list of local and regional acts that deserve a listen.


▪ Grizfolk, 7 p.m.: They’re an indie-pop/rock band from Los Angeles via Sweden. Their slightly retro sound is tuneful and groovy, bathed in guitars, keyboards and harmonies. It’s all well-crafted and immediately accessible. Recommended for fans of the Fray or early Coldplay.

▪ Meg Myers, 8:30 p.m.: She’s a singer/songwriter from Tennessee whose heavy, gothic folk/pop songs issue a sugar-coated menace. Her operatic jagged-edged voice is as elemental to her songs as their operatic arrangements. The confluence of sounds and intentions at times evoke a mix of Kate Bush, Sinead O’Connor and Alanis Morissette.

▪ Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, 10 p.m.: McMahon is well-known to legions of indie-pop fans. He was the mastermind behind Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin. In 2014, McMahon, 33, a 10-year cancer survivor, started Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. Its self-titled debut featured many of the traits for which McMahon has become noted: lots of energy, lots of bright melodies and big hooks.


▪ Nikki Lane, 6:30 p.m.: A native of Greenville, S.C., Lane now lives in Nashville, where she writes and records the kind of throwback, traditional country songs that will get you a gig opening for Loretta Lynn, which Lane did at the Uptown Theater in November 2014. Recommended if you’re a fan of early Neko Case.

▪ Mariachi el Bronx, 8 p.m.: They are the mariachi version of the hardcore Los Angeles punk band the Bronx (who perform Friday night at the Riot Room). They re-create the sounds of traditional Hispanic dance music with affection and without a whiff of irony. If you watch the “Adult Swim” show “Aqua Something You Know Whatever,” you are familiar with Mariachi El Bronx: They co-wrote the theme song.

▪ Nate Ruess, 9:45 p.m.: Ruess is the lead singer of the band Fun, who released the blockbuster single “We Are Young” in 2011. Fun is on indefinite hiatus, so Ruess and his bandmates are out pursuing solo projects. In June 2015, Ruess released his silo debut, “Grand Romantic,” a collection of theatrical, heavily orchestrated pop songs. Recommended if you like Fun.


▪ The English Beat, 12:20 p.m.: Guitarist/lead vocalist Dave Wakeling is the only founding member of this version of the British band at the center of the 2-Tone/ska revival in the late 1970s. Their sound remains as buoyant, bouncy and jubilant as ever, and their best material still holds up, songs like “Mirror in the Bathroom,” “Can’t Get Used to Losing You,” “Too Nice to Talk To” and their cover of “Tears of a Clown.”

▪ Soul Asylum, 1:40 p.m.: They’ve been making albums for more than 30 years, since their days on Twin/Tone Records in their native Minneapolis. Their underground success led to big-label deals in the late 1980s and charting albums in the early 1990s: “Grave Dancers Union,” which went triple platinum, and “Let Your Dim Light Shine,” which went platinum. Dave Pirner is the only founding member left in the band, which continues to release albums, including “Change of Fortune,” released in March, and to tour and sing the archetypical alt-rock songs that made them indie-rock favorites for years.

▪ Gin Blossoms, 3:40 p.m.: This Arizona easy-rock band rose with the tide that carried bands like Hootie and the Blowfish and Toad the Wet Sprocket onto the charts in the early 1990s. They are best known for “New Miserable Experience,” released in 1992, which went triple platinum, thanks to hits like “Hey Jealousy,” “Found Out About You” and “Allison Road.” The band broke up in 1997 but reunited in 2002. The group now contains two founding members , vocalist Jesse Valenzuela and bassist Bill Leen, plus longtime guitarist Robin Wilson.

Five local picks

This year’s lineup is filled with bands from Kansas City, Lawrence and the surrounding region. Many are well-known and established and come highly recommended: the Architects (which now includes guitarist Mike Alexander, who was with the band in its Gadjit days), Radkey, Katy Guillen & the Girls, the Grisly Hand, Me Like Bees, the Noise FM, Jessica Paige, Kristie Stremel, the Blackbird Revue.

Here are five bands you may not have heard of that deserve a look and listen.

▪ The Greeting Committee, 5:40 p.m. Friday at the main stage: Four friends who met at Blue Valley High School in 2014 have been making waves lately with their mix of high-speed indie-pop/punk. This spring they toured with the punk band Kitten.

▪ Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle, 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the main stage: They fluidly blend jazz, funk, soul and hip-hop.

▪ The Buhs, 1 p.m. Sunday at the second stage: This super-group of Kansas City singers and musicians delivers an invigorating mix of pop, soul, jazz and hip-hop. The Buhs (pronounced “Buzz”), includes singers Julia Haile, Lee Langston and Anthony Saunders, emcees Les Izmore and Reach, jazz trumpeter Hermon Mehari, percussionist Brad Williams, keyboardist Kinyon Price, drummer Ryan J. Lee, guitarist Tim Braun and bassist Ben Leifer.

▪ Calvin Arsenia, 2:45 Sunday, acoustic stage: He’s a passionate and soulful singer/songwriter and a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, piano, harp) who has developed an unusual and memorable live presentation.

▪ Nicholas St. James, 9:05 Saturday, acoustic stage: He has a voice you won’t forget: It’s muscular and percussive and well-suited to the songs he writes, which are steeped in the Delta blues and primal rock ’n’ roll.

More information

For more on tickets, food trucks, crafters and fun at Boulevardia, go to

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